Like any type of snacking, late night nibbling may or may not be good for you, depending on what you choose to eat. Your best bet under any circumstances is to eat light: Stick to a100-calorie snack pack or, better yet, choose a midnight munchie that combines just enough protein and carbs to satisfy your hunger and soothe you back to sleep. We have some suggestions.

But first, a myth buster: There may be some good reasons to avoid midnight snacks, but weight gain isn't necessarily one of them. Eating late at night will not cause you to gain more weight than eating earlier in the evening.  A calorie is a calorie, regardless of what time you consume it, and your metabolism is turned on 24/7, burning those calories all the time.

You will gain weight, however, if those midnight snacks are adding extra calories to your overall diet because your body also works day and night converting excess calories into fat. And if you're not getting enough sleep night after night, and you spend your extra "awake time" eating out of boredom, anxiety, or any reason other than true hunger, chances are you'll put on a few pounds.

When you do indulge in late-night snacks, approach snacking the way you (hopefully) approach normal eating. Have a healthful, balanced "mini-meal." Avoid greasy or fried foods, not only because of the extra calories, but because they are harder for your body to digest and digestive disturbances can also disturb your sleep. Also avoid any foods you know might cause gas or heartburn, which will also interfere with sleep.

Probably the most important thing is to have healthy snacks on hand. Any of these five (or a similar combo) should help get you through the night:

Whole-wheat toast or crackers with dabs of peanut butter along with a half glass of milk

Thinly sliced apple or pear with cheese

Low-fat plain yogurt with honey

Thinly sliced lean ham or turkey rolled around a breadstick or pretzel rod

Small bowl of cereal with milk and a few slices of banana

If you stay up late because of your work schedule or your normal sleep pattern is to go to bed late and get up later in the morning, a midnight snack may be just the thing you need to satisfy hunger before you hit the sack. But if you routinely go to sleep earlier and then wake up at midnight or some other time in the middle of the night, craving a snack, you've developed a bad habit that you're probably better off trying to break. If that's the case, you may need to break the sleep/wake cycle by not giving in to a snack when you wake up in the middle of the night. If you can hold out for a couple of nights, your body will stop expecting food at you should soon be sleeping through the night.